Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hike 92: Teutonia Peak

Hiked Sunday, October 10. Fall means we're back to at least occasional days when desert hikes are doable, again. That's especially true of places like Teutonia Peak, which tops out at over 5,700 feet.

Teutonia Peak is located in the Mojave National Preserve. From I-15, the most direct route is via Cima Road, which is 26 miles "north" of Baker and 13 miles "south" of the Nipton Road exit. (The general direction of I-15 is north-south, but the section we're talking about here trends mostly east-west). About eight miles south of I-15 is the parking area for the Teutonia Peak Trail. The sign and NPS materials say it's a three mile roundtrip hike.

I started this hike at about 8:30am, when the temper- ature (according to my car thermo- meter) was in the upper 50s. It was sunny and windy, but felt very comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. Because of the temperatures, I took only my camera with me. Because of the altitude gain, if the temperatures were summer-like, you'd definitely want to bring something to drink, and maybe some sun protection.

There's a couple of large signs at the start of the trail that look like they must have been designed and manufactured by the same company that did the signs in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail appears to be an old jeep trail, so most of it is double-tracked. If you're not careful, you could easily walk into Joshua Tree branches, cactus prickles, or Spanish bayonet.

After about a half mile, you realize that the mostly-Joshua Tree forest you started the hike in (the densest Joshua tree forest in the world, according to NPS materials) has slowly given way to juniper forest. Small Joshua tree continue sporadically all the way to the top of the trail, but they thin out considerably as you gain altitude.

I like the way cactus and grasses look in the early morning, especially when backlit. The desert light in midday is just too harsh and makes everything look flat.

The trail itself has occasional signs and is easy to follow. At the points where you cross old or current jeep trails, a sign points you the way forward (they assume you'll know how to make your back back down). Only the last 1/4 or so is seriously steep (it feels steeper because of the altitude). Reaching the actual peak would be difficult and would require some good rock climbing skills. But even without getting the last 20 feet or so, the views from the top are definitely worth it.

Got back to the car about 10am, meaning it took just about 90 minutes, and that's with taking LOTS of pictures along the way, but walking briskly on the level sections.

After Teutonia Peak, we made our way over to the Kelso Depot and the very nice visitor center there. There's a lunch counter inside, as well as a model of what Kelso Depot looked like back in the 1940s. Three stories of displays, too.

We also went to the Kelso Dune trailhead and walked about 1/4 mile out, to the edge of the actual dune. It was in the 80s by then and we didn't feel like exerting ourselves more seriously. We'll save that hike for a later day.

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